Welcome to brandchannel‘s annual Brandcameo Product Placement Awards.
For more than a decade—15 years, to be exact—we’ve been tracking product placement and brand appearances in every film that finished #1 at the US box office.
Each year on the eve of the Academy Awards we release our own nod to the year in motion pictures. Only instead of honoring the human talent in cinema, we honor the brands and products that make silent contributions (well, not always silent) and often help fund the making of those movies.
So once again, we bring you the winners for the good, the bad, the ugly (and sometimes even touching) product placements on the big screen in the past year. Without further ado, here are our awards covering the #1 films last year:[more]
2014 Award for Overall Product Placement – Apple
Three years have passed since Apple last won this award. After wins in 2010 and 2011, Apple’s onscreen dominance wilted. But Apple is back on top, though barely. Apple products appeared in nine of the 35 films that topped the U.S. weekend box office in 2014, or about a quarter of all #1s.
Apple bested both Coca-Cola and Sony by a single appearance, for which Apple can thank “The Lego Movie.” The Apple logo doesn’t appear in the film but Lord Business does talk about his iPod Shuffle. Recent winners Budweiser (2013) and Mercedes-Benz (2012) showed up in a distant five and six times respectively.
Apple’s brand cameos last year ranged from the passing mention in “The Lego Movie” to an outstanding Apple Store scene in “Captain America: Winter Soldier.”
Other appearances include in “Ride Along,” “The Other Woman,” “Neighbors,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Think Like a Man Too,” “Gone Girl” (above, with a Starbucks latte in the other hand) and “Ouija.”
Beyond #1 films, Apple was a common sight as well in films including “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” as well as “Birdman,” “Sabotage,” “Breakup Buddies” (China), “Tusk,” “Let’s Be Cops” and, especially, “Sex Tape.”
Apple’s appearance in over a quarter of all #1s in 2014 is a return to Hollywood form after 2013 (15% of #1s). But it’s still a far cry from Apple’s product placement golden age of 2009 (20 of 41 #1s) and 2011 (42.5% of all #1s). Indeed, between 2001 and 2011, Apple appeared in 34.4% of all #1 films.
2014 Award for Achievement in Product Placement in a Single Film – “Transformers: Age of Extinction”
Armani, Beats, Black Duck (周黑鸭), Budweiser, Bushnell, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Goodyear, Gucci, Indian Motorcycles, Lenovo, Lukfook, Nike, Nutrilite, Oakley, Oshkosh Defense, Pangu Plaza, Red Bull, Victoria’s Secret, Yili milk and C’estbon(怡宝).
That is an accounting of just some of the 55 brands that can be seen in 2014’s entry in movie juggernaut that is The Transformers series.
“Transformers 4″ finished far ahead of its nearest competition. The closest three films were “Gone Girl” (48 brands), “Ride Along” (37) and “22 Jump Street” (32). And yet, as chockfull as “Age of Extinction” was, it still did not come within a mile of 2011’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” which boasted a whopping 71 on-screen brands.
Finally, “Transformers 4″ star Stanley Tucci gets an honorable mention here for his hard work with a Beats audio’s Pill (see below) and a Yili milk drink box.
Previous winners in this category include “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Iron Man,” “Ted” and “Pain and Gain”
2014 Award for Product Placement Achievement in an Oscar-Nominated Film – “The Theory of Everything” and Tide
In “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” the source material for the Oscar-nominated “The Theory of Everything” biopic about Stephen Hawking, author Jane Hawking writes,
“Stephen explained that the lights were picking up the fluorescent element contained in washing powder, which was why the men’s shirts were so visible, but that, as the girls’ new dresses would not have been contaminated with Tide or Daz or any other detergent, they did not show up with the same ghostly light.”
In the film, Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne) leaves a box of Tide for his sweetheart. So why did the film use Tide and not Daz? New Media Group, the UK agency that placed Tide in the film, told us the answer is simple: Tide was assumed to be a more familiar brand for the film’s target US audience.
Previous winners in this category include “Argo” (KFC), “The Help” (Crisco), “The Fighter” (Budweiser) and “Philomena” (Guinness)
2014 Award for Worst Product Placement – “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and Beats
Comparatively, 2014 was a slow year for truly awful product placement. Still, it had its share of pretty bad, bad and egregiously bad product placement.
Examples that audiences detested included Sony in “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Stella Artois in “Birdman” (below), Bing in “Robocop,” Samsung in “Veronica Mars,” mostly everything in “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and absolutely everything in Adam Sandler’s “Blended.”
Now, if this award was for the most ethically bankrupt product placement it would go to gunmaker Beretta and its placement in war tragedy “Lone Survivor.” But it’s the worst product placement we’re seeking here, and that distinction belongs solely to “Transformers 4″ and the Apple-owned Beats brand.
In a laboratory scene, Tucci as the baddie picks up some of the magic “Transformium” material and, facing the ability to use his mind to create nearly anything imaginable, he produces a Beats “Pill” speaker.
Previous winners in this category include “The Amazing Spider-Man” (Bing), “Green Lantern” (Hot Wheels), “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (IWC) and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (Papa John’s)
2014 Award for Product Placement Achievement in a Foreign Film - “2 States” and Sunsilk
It is no small feat to out-product-place an entry in China’s “Tiny Times” (小时代) series (“Tiny Times 3,” 2014). But India’s “2 States” did just that with its incorporation of Hindustan Unilever Ltd.’s Sunsilk shampoo brand.
The film, rated a “Super Hit” by Box Office India and Bollywood’s second highest overseas grossing film of 2014, is about a young college student who becomes a brand manager for Sunsilk with the task of launching a new line of the brand’s shampoo.
Get ready for more of the same, as HUL and MTV India plan to launch other films inspired by HUL brands (including Tresemme, Ponds and Close Up) in a six-picture branded entertainment deal.
Previous winners in this category include “I Know a Woman’s Heart” (我知女人心), “Due West: Our Sexual Journey” (一路向西) and “Dhoom 3″
2014 Award for Best Role as a Supporting Product Placement – “Nightcrawler” and Dodge
For sheer eye-rolling, nothing beat Apple’s roles in “Sex Tape” and “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” Nonetheless, Apple’s product placement blunderbuss is outdone by Dodge.
When Nightcrawler‘s paparazzi protagonist, Lou Bloom, becomes flush and successful he doesn’t just buy a nicer car; Bloom buys a projection of himself in the form of a candy-apple red Dodge Challenger 392 SRT.
More than just a hot rod, the in-your-face muscle car mirrors the development of Bloom as he becomes more single-mindedly aggressive, unforgiving and remorseless.
Previous winners in this category include “Paranormal Activity” (Xbox), “Zookeeper” (TGI Friday’s), “The Other Guys” (Toyota Prius) and “The Internship” (Google)
2014 Award for Best Off-screen Supporting Product – “Godzilla” and Snickers
Original, off-screen product tie-ins have become almost as sought after as onscreen placements as entertainment marketing becomes ever more wide-reaching and socially-driven.
This year saw a few forward-looking examples. The “Fury”/World of Tanks game tie-in bundle and “Think Like a Man Too”‘s Magic Shave red carpet were creatively reheated leftovers.
The Los Angeles-based Buds & Roses medical marijuana dispensary made up for that by launching “Mr. Tusk” and “White Walrus” branded marijuana in an official partnership with bizarre horror film “Tusk.”
But the behemoth in this category was “Godzilla.” Among the rebooted monster film’s many partners, the Snickers opted not to play it straight. Instead, the candy bar brand retrofitted Godzilla into its existing “not yourself” campaign for a bit of delicious campy cross-marketing.
Previous winners in this category include “Anchorman 2″ (Dodge Durango)
2014 Award for Product Placement Impact – “The Lego Movie” and Lego
After glowing praise for its line of beds featured in “Gone Girl,” Savoir beds reported 20 percent more traffic to its website. But nothing beats the big screen halo effect that Lego enjoyed in 2014, with the movie making it the world’s biggest toy brand.
Lego’s online store offers three pages of toys related to the film, ranging from a simple Emmet figure to Lord Business’s Evil Lair and even Melting Room play sets.
A merchandising beast, “The Lego Movie” boosted the Danish toymaker’s sales by 11 percent in the 6 months after it opened, to more than $2 billion. That made it the largest toymaker on earth. Everything is awesome, indeed.
Previous winners in this category include The Macallan (“Skyfall”), Mane n’ Tail (“POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”), the American Museum of Natural History (“Night at the Museum”) and the Norwegian tourism authority (Disney’s “Frozen”)
2014 Award for Product Placement Adaptation – “Wild” and REI
“I loved REI more than I loved the people behind Snapple lemonade.”
That is just one of nearly a dozen mentions of the outdoor goods retailer in Cheryl Strayed’s original, Oprah-approved 2012 memoir, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.”
The book became the 2014 film “Wild” and maintained the protagonist’s love for REI by featuring it prominently in the film starring Reese Witherspoon.
REI loves “Wild” as well, promoting its Danner Mountain Light Cascade Hiking Boots as “Featured in the Fox Searchlight Pictures release ‘WILD’.”
Previous winners in this category include “Silver Linings Playbook” (Raisin Bran) and “Warm Bodies” (BMW).
2014 Forrest Gump Award for Achievement in Reverse Product Placement – “Chef” and El Jefe
The popularity of the film Forrest Gump brought a fictional brand to real life, with the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant chain still going today. This award recognizes a film’s achievement in bringing a brand to market (defictionalization, or life imitating art) instead of marketing an existing brand or product.
Lego’s movie launched a million new play sets but profit margin is not the sole criteria for an award. Like Bubba Gump, this year’s winner is gastronomic.
“Chef” director Jon Favreau worked with famed Los Angeles chef Roy Choi to make the El Jefe food truck in the touching comedy into a reality. Since the success of the film, El Jefe pop-ups (in partnership with LA’s Animal restaurant) have served the film’s signature $9 “Cubano” sandwich. They are now considering a permanent El Jefe restaurant. There’s even an “El Jefe” cookbook (available as a free download).
It’s worth mentioning that “Chef” was not the only 2014 film to move deliciousness from screen to real life.
The famed Courtesan au Chocolat made by the fictional Mendl’s bakery (from Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) was made and sold by a bakery in Portland. And for those wanting to give it a go, the recipe for Mendl’s Courtesan au Chocolat was a scene in the film.
Previous winners in this category include “Twilight: Eclipse” (Bella’s engagement ring), “Ted,” “Anchorman 2″ (Ridged Ghost condoms).
2014 Coca-Cola Kid Award for Product Placement Title – “Yves Saint Laurent”
The 1985 film “The Coca-Cola Kid” celebrated one man’s struggle with a Coca-Cola franchise. This award celebrates achievement not only in a branded film title, but also in fully incorporating the title brand product in the plot.
Beating out “The Lego Movie” is 2014’s biopic “Yves Saint Laurent.”
Previous winners in this category include “Ferrari Ki Sawaari,” “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “The Lincoln Lawyer” (whose star, Matthew McConaughey, went on to star in Lincoln’s car commercials) and 午夜微博 (Wǔyè wēibó) or “Midnight Weibo.”
2014 Wayne’s World Award for Product Placement Product Placement – “22 Jump Street”
“Wayne’s World” (recently revived in the “Saturday Night Live” 40th anniversary special) gleefully skewered product placement. This award recognizes achievements in winking at the entire practice of integrating and embedding products and brands into movies.
This year we’re giving it to “22 Jump Street” for something that wasn’t even in the movie—its end credit sequence, which included ads for fictional future franchise sequels, and proved to be funnier than the 90 minutes that preceded it.
Previous winners in this cateogry include “That’s My Boy” (Ford Mustang), “Jack and Jill” (Al Pacino’s “Dunkin’ Donuts Dunk-Acino”), “The Joneses” (everything) and “Anchorman 2″ (Jockey).
2014 Award for Unwanted Product Placement – “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and Pangu Plaza
A number of Chinese brands expressed their dissatisfied with their product placements in “Transformers 4,” including the 周黑鸭 (Black Duck) fast food chain and Chongqing Wulong Karst Tourism (Group) Co. Ltd. But none was as unhappy as Beijing’s Pangu Plaza.
The five-star hotel was outraged that its $1.6 million deal only bought a passing mention instead of the “no fewer than 20 seconds” of screen time Pangu claims it was promised. Pangu demanded edits to the film and threatened to have its China release delayed in a legal spat that has since been settled.
Previous winners in this category include Budweiser (“Flight”), Gap (“Crazy, Sexy, Love”) and BP (“Anchorman 2″)
2014 Cleo McDowell “My Buns Have No Seeds” Award – “Dumb and Dumber To” and KEN Conference
The 1988 Eddie Murphy movie “Coming to America” features a famous plot point pitting the Golden Arches and Big Mac of McDonald’s against the Golden Arcs and Big Mick of “McDowell’s.” This award recognizes achievement in fake onscreen brands.
This year the prize goes to “Dumb and Dumber To” for its send-up of the popular TED conference with the KEN conference, featuring a dog licking peanut butter off one of our heroes… blecch.
Previous winners in this category include “Flight” (for the fictitious SouthJet), “The Roomate” (for the Frienderz social network), “The Town” (for Vericom) and “Movie 43) (for the YouTube-alike ViewThisTube and Google-like Zwoogle)
2014 Award for Closing Credits – Shake Shack
A new, special award this year was created to recognize how New York’s rockstar burger joint Shake Shack leveraged its product placements, such as Ben Stiller’s scene (above) in “Tower Heist.”
The company’s IPO prospectus argued that Shake Shake was a good investment, in part, because (quote)
“Shake Shack has been fortunate to receive considerable product placement in movies, TV shows and other media without any cost to the Company. In fact, Shake Shack has been able to charge fees for these location shoots, which have included scenes from the motion pictures ‘Something Borrowed’ and ‘Tower Heist,’ as well as the acclaimed HBO series ‘The Newsroom.'”
Trading as SHAK, the global eatery duly opened at $21 a share and closed at $45.90. Clearly, getting mentioned in an IPO prospectus is the product placement equivalent of getting mentioned in a company’s quarterly earnings call.
2014 Award for Original Short – “A Small Section of the World” and Illy
Italy’s beloved coffee brand Illy underwrote this inspirational documentary about a group of women from a remote farming region of Costa Rica who came together to build their nation’s first women’s run coffee micro-mill.
A significant amount of the mill’s coffee wass purchased by Illy and the brand features in the film, an outstanding example that shows branded entertainment can be serious and moving.
Previous winners in this category include Kikkoman’s “Make Haste Slowly” and “Sriracha! The Movie”
2014 Lifetime Achievement Award for Product Placement – Triumph
When star of the moment Chris Pratt rides in to save the day in this year’s much anticipated “Jurassic World,” what will he have in common with Steve McQueen, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Anthony Quinn, Elvis Presley, Warren Beatty, Henry “Fonzie” Winkler and Ann Margret?
In their primes they all appeared in iconic roles riding Triumph motorcycles. The list of Triumph’s film credits is impressive: “The Wild One” (1953); “Rebel Without A Cause” (1955); “The Blob” (1958); “The Great Escape” (1963); “The Swinger” (1966); “Coogan’s Bluff” (1968); “Stay Away Joe” (1968); “The Damned” (1969); “Happy Days” (1968); and Warren Beatty’s love ‘em and leave ‘em hairstylist in “Shampoo” (1975).
Like all aging stars, Triumph’s film career eventually hit a rocky patch in the 1980s and early 1990s. Richard Gere’s 750cc Triumph T140E Bonneville was not stealing scenes in 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman.” A year later, Triumph was bankrupt. Reemerging as Bonneville Coventry Ltd, Triumph’s most memorable role in the 1990s is probably one to forget, as the ride of Pamela Anderson in the pulpy (in a bad way) “Barb Wire” (1996).
But Triumph made an active effort to roar back into Hollywood. “Triumph focused more on getting our motorcycles on the big screen and embraced these opportunities in recent years,” says Steve Bidlack, the Executive Director of Client Services for Triumph Motorcycles America. “Hollywood is vital to the Triumph brand image. Movie stars deemed as the world’s coolest people rode Triumphs because of their reputation as the world’s fastest motorcycles.”
A turning point came on the eve of the new millennium. In 1999, Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity rode a Triumph Speed Triple in “The Matrix.” Less than 12 months later, Tom Cruise rode the same bike in “Mission Impossible 2″ for its motorbike battle finale. A year after “Mission Impossible 2,” at the age of 99, Triumph recorded its first profit in decades.
The roles continued trickling in. In 2003, both “Daredevil”‘s Bullseye (Colin Ferrell) and “How to Lose a Guy” cad Matthew McConaughey rode Triumphs. In 2004 it was Ice Cube riding Triumph in “Torque.” Brad Pitt reverse-aged into his cool years astride a Triumph in 2008’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” In 2011, Pitt’s wife Angelina Jolie jumped on a Triumph in “Salt.” Action star Jason Statham rode Triumph in “Killer Elite” (2010). In 2012 it was Ryan Reynolds riding a Triumph in “Safe House.”
Today, Triumphs are everywhere. Tom Cruise zipped through London in 2014’s “Edge of Tomorrow.” The warmest, father-son plot point of last year’s “Kill the Messenger” was a classic Triumph. Meanwhile, TV’s greatest badass, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon in “The Walking Dead, rode a modified Triumph.
So what does Triumph see as its most iconic film cameo? No surprise here. It’s Marlon Brando’s 1953 “The Wild One” featuring the 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T. The role, Bidlack says, “cemented Triumph’s legacy of cool.” One that continues, rejuvenated, today.
Previous winners in this category include Budweiser, Apple, Gatorade, Everlast, USA Today, Glock, and Under Armor
Methodology (Or How We Do What We Do)
A total of 35 films were #1 at the U.S. box office in 2014. In those top 35 films we spotted 487 identifiable brands or products. This works out to an average of 13.9 product placements per film. This average represents nearly a doubling of last year’s average of 7.5 per film.
As always, it’s worth keeping in mind that this average may be offset by films set in time periods during which placements would be few or impossible such as “Maleficent,” “The Hobbit,” “Frozen” and “Noah.”
Furthermore, 14 (or 40%) of 2014’s top films had no, or one, product.
Top films in 2014 that featured no brands or products included “Fury,” “Ouija,” “The Maze Runner,” “Big Hero 6,” “No Good Deed,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and “Divergent.”
For films with two or more placements, 2014’s average products per film was 23.
Average identifiable products per film since 2001:
• 2001 – 22.2 products per #1 film
• 2002 – 17.8 PPF
• 2003 – 18.1 PPF
• 2004 – 13.4 PPF
• 2005 – 22.1 PPF
• 2006 – 21.5 PPF
• 2007 – 20.7 PPF
• 2008 – 19.6 PPF
• 2009 – 17.5 PPF
• 2010 – 17.9 PPF
• 2011 – 17.8 PPF
• 2012 – 10.9 PPF
• 2013 – 7.5 PPF
• 2014 – 13.9 PPF
It should be pointed out that no two brand appearances in a film are equal. The prominent Pepsi placement in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is not equal to the passing billboard for Felt bicycles in “Captain America” or, for that matter, the Pepsi sighting in “Lone Survivor.”
Putting a dollar metric on product placement and its impact continues to be a major challenge for brands and their product placement agents alike.
Take a look back at previous Brandcameo award-winners, stay tuned for our new and improved Brandcameo product placement tracker on brandchannel, and share your thoughts on this year’s winners (and losers) in the comments below:
Click here for the 2014 Brandcameo Product Placement Award Winners
Click here for the 2013 Brandcameo Product Placement Award Winners
Click here for the 2012 Brandcameo Product Placement Award Winners
Click here for the 2011 Brandcameo Product Placement Award Winners